Representations of Refugees, Traffickers and Locals in Greek Literature in The Period of The European Migrant Crisis

Authors: Christina Linardaki (Advanced Media Institute, Hellenic Open University, Greece)
Marie Lavrentiadou (Advanced Media Institution, Hellenic Open University, Greece)
Speaker: Christina Linardaki
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
COMELA 2020 General Session


The European migrant crisis, i.e. the crisis characterized by high numbers of people flooding the European Union from across the Mediterranean Sea or overland through Southeast Europe, has been acutely affecting Greece, one of the main countries of their entrance into the EU. Greek literary texts (three books of prose and more than 150 poems) written, in their bulk, during of just after the years of the crisis (mainly between 2015 and 2018) are considered as a source from which to derive possible representations of refugees, traffickers and Greeks. In literature, the generalisations that a writer produces function not just as “assertions that claim to be true about the world”, but also as its reflection. They can also ambition to play an instructive role.

The literary texts are analyzed with tools from critical discourse analysis (CDA) and social representation theory that falls under the scope of social psychology. CDA, focuses, inter alia, on the relations of “power, dominance and inequality and the ways these are reproduced or resisted by social group members through text and talk” and is used at first to analyze the texts. Social representation theory, which looks into the ways that reality is constructed and reconstructed in the everydayness (and the narratives) of social groups, focusing at times on the power of historically established suspicion against those who are considered “others”, is then used to derive conclusions.

The analysis reveals a double-faced perception of the refugees: (i) as a dangerous mob and (ii) as harmless individuals who have gone through a lot. It also reveals a similarly double representation of Greeks: (i) as people embracing and trying to comfort the migrants or (ii) people who clasp around the dipole “us-them” and feel threatened by their flow and presence. There also emerges the viewpoint of traffickers. Literature, then, enables us to mark the separate identities of the social groups involved. A question of how these identities form just a surface, under which everybody shares a common human nature, must necessarily follow.

Keywords: Refugees, European migrant crisis, Greece, prose, poetry, CDA, social representations theory